Food Bank Feeds Families One Cut at a Time

first_img Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. WHITEFISH – With a pair of blood-covered gloves and a blood-splattered apron, Jerry Quinn looked more like a horror movie extra than a happy and helpful food bank volunteer on a recent Friday morning. But, as Quinn and his team of butchers will remind you, sometimes volunteer work is messy.Quinn has been helping butcher donated meat and game for the Whitefish nonprofit for nearly three decades, after a local game warden called food bank founder June Munski-Feenan and asked if she wanted some meat.“She said ‘yes’ and then June called me and asked if I would butcher up the meat for the food bank,” said Quinn, who also serves on the board of directors. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”About once a week, three or four butchers will gather at the food bank located near Safeway in Whitefish and to process whatever meat has been dropped off during the previous seven days. Sometimes it’s extra meat from a hunter’s recent kill and other times it’s a deer or moose that was hit on the highway. So long as the animal is picked up quickly the meat is still good.In 2013, the Montana Legislature passed a bill that allowed for people to salvage deer, elk, moose and antelope killed by motor vehicles. The permits are available at no cost to anyone.On this Friday morning, eight butchers produced about 300 pounds of deer meat. Although that may seem like a lot, it’s only a small part of the 400,000 pounds of food the group distributes every year, according to executive director SueAnn Grogan King. The food bank feeds about 150 families and distributes nearly 25,000 pounds of food every month.Quinn said the butchers try to salvage nice cuts of meat as well as produce a lot of burger, which is always good to have on hand. A decade ago, Quinn and a group of volunteers even went to Yellowstone National Park and were able to bring home the meat of 29 bison that were being harvested by the park service.All of the donated meat is butchered and processed at the food bank’s new facility in Whitefish built last year. The facility was constructed with the butchers and meat donations in mind. Outside the kitchen area is a winch and hook that hangs over a drain so that animals can be skinned and gutted as soon as they arrive.  Just inside the door is a large freezer that holds the donations until the butchers are ready.Grogan King said donations usually increase the last few months of the year during the holidays. That’s especially helpful because these can be some of the toughest times for families.“(Seeing all the donations) really makes you feel good about mankind. It’s amazing to see how much is donated,” she said. “No one wants to see food go to waste.”For more information about how to help the North Valley Food Bank, visit www.northvalleyfoodbank.org.last_img read more